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Teachers are designers. An essential act of our profession is the design of curriculum and learning experiences to meet specified purposes. We are also designers of assessments to diagnose student needs to guide our teaching and to enable us, our students, and others (parents and administrators) to determine whether our goals have been achieved, that is, did the students learn and understand the desired knowledge?
Understanding by Design, backward design!
In recent years the area of designing curriculum has become of prime importance in schools. This is particularly critical as schools begin to become familiar with and deconstruct the Australian Curriculum for the purpose of designing appropriate learning and teaching program for their students. The theory which has been adopted as the way to go is from the work of Wiggins and McTighe in the area of Backward Design. Everywhere one goes, where curriculum is being developed and implemented we hear the term UBD or rather Understanding By Design.
Backward Design planning is a rather logical and reasonable idea which has always been the way of operation for many teachers, but not all.
By clearly articulating the UBD process, Wiggins and McTighe have created a way of thinking which has had great penetration into the area of curriculum planning and in turn pedagogy.
A few observations and gems of comment from the readings on Wiggins and McTighe
• Teachers are designers.
• "Clarifying the desired results of our teaching, how will we ever know whether our designs are appropriate or arbitrary?"
• How will we distinguish merely interesting learning from effective learning?
• Good design, … is about learning to be more thoughtful and specific about our purposes and what they imply.
• The shift involves thinking a great deal, first, about the specific learnings sought, and the evidence of such learning, before thinking about what we as the teacher, will do or provide in teaching and learning activities.
• "The challenge is to focus first on the desired learnings from which appropriate teaching will logically follow."
• “...best designs derive backward from the learnings sought.”
• “...too many teachers focus on the teaching and not the learning.”
• Content focused design versus results focused design.
• Answering the "why?" and "so what?" questions as the focus of curriculum planning.
• Twin sins:
* activity-oriented design might be called "hands-on without being minds-on" primary-middle years)
* aimless coverage (upper secondary)
• Students require clear purposes and explicit performance goals.
• Grasp the key idea that we are not coaches of their ability to play the "game" or performing with understanding, not tellers of our understanding to them on the sidelines.
• Three stages of Backward Design = Identify desired result - Determine acceptable evidence - Plan learning experience and instruction.
A related reading on progression was also set for this week’s workshop. Here are some comments from the work of Hoodless: Planning for progression and opportunities for the development of key skills
• Long, medium and short term planning.
• Australian curriculum is taking care of the long term planning?
• Key questions to draw together medium term planning.
• “...link the skills. concepts and factual content together around a central question, which is likely to interest the children.”
• “Short-term planning refers to the planning of individual lessons by the class teacher.”
• “Objectives, often expressed as key questions, are the knowledge, skills or understanding which you will want the children to have learned by the end of the lesson'
• Planning process = Previous knowledge and understanding - Specific learning intentions - Planned learning experience.
• "Hierarchy of thinking skills, which interact with language, and also depend on maturation; learning is seen as a developmental process."
• The thinking skills listed:
* Information processing
* Creative thinking